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Looking forward to his next work.
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The stories presented in each collection are intelligent, extremely well-written, and creepy to the extreme. Those who enjoy the standard psychopathic killer yarn will not find what they're looking for here. Instead they'll find a type of horror that takes a time-honored genre and breathes new life into it. Simply outstanding.
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Twain is a delight and underrated by modern critics; here lies a good collection of some of his fine works. Especially good are Life on the Mississippi and Pudd'nhead Wilson, along with the indesposable Huckleberry Finn. Also contained is Tom Sawyer, which I cannot praise, but I cannot deny its position as a classic and its deservence to be included in this volume.
Beginning with a history of European "discovery" and exploration of this mighty stream, Twain moves us into his own history as a "cub" pilot. Perhaps no-one before or since has so effectively exposed what it meant to "tackle the river" in learning to safely man the wheel of a river steamer. From his first astonishment at discovering he must "get a notebook and write down" the names of all the points, landmarks, snags and "crossings" through the realization that most of that information would change before his next trip, he comes to understand that a pilot must "know the river" with full dedication. As we follow him through the process he introduces us to the river's wonders and the people it supports. He explains the ranking of pilots, steamboat captains, mates and "hands." None of his observations are boring, from the most mundane river condition to dramatic events such as boiler explosions.
Those fearing that Twain's information may be "outdated" may take heart. Much of the book views his early days on the river from the vantage point of thirty years later. He is reminiscing, but Twain's excellent style brings us with him into each memory. Our feelings readily align with his as he guides us. The latter part of the book is a collection of images of the river valley in the latter part of the 19th Century as Twain revisits the river after a long absence. The only real distinction, apart from the automobile, which did for the railroad what the latter did to the steamboat, are the statistics of agriculture and industry. His descriptions of towns, villages and cities differ little from what we might encounter duplicating his journey.
During this pilgrimage, Twain brings in numerous anecdotal episodes to further sparkle his descriptive and historical accounts. Although all are entertaining at one level or another, several stand out as representatives of Twain's inventive genius. Ritter's Narrative is among the grimmest of Twain's essays in any of his publications. It's a story of a long-term quest for vengeance with a bizarre outcome. A far lighter note is struck with the story of a sleepwalking steamboat pilot. An account of the pilots organizing a "protective association" is told with light humour, not quite obscuring the serious nature of its intent.
In all, no matter that this book's focus lies in a period stretching back nearly two centuries, the writing is vigorous enough to capture today's readers. The history is related with Twain's always lively skill, something as mundane as a sunset is imparted with his special verve. This book can be taken up repeatedly; for reminders of a lost era, for an examination of values or, the best reason of all, for a prime example of what North America's greatest writer could produce in his passion for narrative.
Now, the contents cannot be less magnificent as the river all these writings have in common. Funny, wise and as much a part of 19th century American history as you'll find anywhere, these are great examples of the best American writing in one "volume" by one of the world's most recognized authors. No self-respecting booklover should be without it.
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The $20 million "Get Ziggy With It" video for the album's title track and first single was the greatest failure since Ziggy's use of Rogaine. The opening scene, shot on the Sultan of Brunei's luxury yacht in the middle of the Ganges River, took 14 months to film and cost the lives of 12 different Ziggy stunt stand-in midget balding eunuch albinos (with no toes). The remaining 26 scenes had to be shot in Tom Wilson's cousin's rec room in Battle Creek, Michigan. The disjointed feeling of the video echoes Ziggy's entire putrescent late '90s repetoire.
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